Innovations are often born out of frustration. You think Henry Ford was psyched about riding around in a horse and buggy? Hell no.
And so it was with Erik Eastland and his now famous beer-drenched bike party, Blitz to the Barrel, an invite only point-to-point bike race that this year carried a $20,000 prize purse.
Eastland, frustrated by the boringness of traditional bike races, sought to bring the party to Bend's favorite past time.
“If you go to NASCAR, supercross, or the Kentucky Derby you don't just walk in, watch the race and leave,” said Eastland, co-owner of a big-time event production and staging company which has coordinated everything from Jay Z shows, to Supercross races, to presidential stages, to the Super Bowl.
“[Bike events] are all racing and uptight,” Eastland said. “Where's the fun around here?”
Seeing none, the California native and eight-year Bend resident decided to change that.
“In talking to Adam [Craig] we decided we needed a hoot—a real hoedown derived from a cannonball run, but with more structure,” Eastland said. “The idea was to attract top level pros and as much money as we can get our hands on.”
Three years ago, Eastland's race from Wanoga Sno-Park to 10 Barrel Brewing Co. entered uncharted waters by hosting the finish at a bar and mandating that racers finish a pint of beer in order to stop the clock. The party atmosphere and multiple race-within-a-race cash prizes further separated the Blitz from the stodgy world of bicycle racing.
Tuesday night's race marked Eastland's third Blitz to the Barrel, each one better than the last. Aside from local superstars Craig, Carl Decker, Barry Wicks, Chris Sheppard and Ryan Trebon, Eastland's hefty races pay out—the first place finisher, man and woman, took home $3,000—has helped him draw other big names like Katie Compton, a multi-time cyclocross national champion and world championship medalist.
Eastland's 21 years at the helm of his production company, All Access, is the secret to Blitz’s success. Over the years, All Access has been heavily involved in the action sports world and has sponsored or owned a number of motocross and supercross teams, including that of 2005 motocross champion Mickey Diamond.
“I'm not a promoter; I work with promoters, and I've learned that everyone has to get value at the end of the day. They want to get something back,” said Eastland, who with the Blitz found himself in a promoter roll for the first time in his career.
“Racers get money, a party and a good time. A $500 sponsor gets his own table with ice and beer right at finish line,” Eastland said. “You have to think logically, creatively and stay organized and as long as it's got some content it'll work.”
The finish line is such a centralized smorgasbord of racers, bikes and beer that the annual event is always packed with fans as well as those just looking for a good time.
The Blitz, now a Bend staple, has grown so much that Eastland said he now desperately needs help. Expect it to stick around, though. The event is a much-needed breath of fresh air in a sport that needs it.
“And,” Eastland said, “somebody had to do it.”
What's Up with All the Construction?
You may have noticed the sizable trench in Century Dr., just west of the Seventh Mountain Resort, and thought, “Jeezus, what's with the medieval moat?”
Relax, ODOT isn't trying to separate you from Mt. Bachelor, the trench is just the beginning of ODOT's four-month (projected) Bend to Bachelor paving project. And this trench is no ordinary ditch. It's to be an underpass that will connect trail users from the south side of Century Dr. to the goods on the north side.
“It was a safety concern,” said ODOT's assistant project manager Jay Davenport. “We don't want to be in the business of routing people over a roadway. [The underpass will] tie in all the trails.”
And that's not all. The underpass will also connect to a Forest Service welcome station to be built on the north side of the road. Inside the welcome center will be maps, forest passes and sno-park permits.
Davenport said the entire paving project, contracted out to Knife River Corp., is ringing in at a hefty $7.8 million. According to Davenport, the underpass project accounts for approximately $275,000 of that amount.
If you're stressing about your summer riding schedule, don't. Davenport said uphill cyclists will be allowed to pedal on, uninterrupted, throughout the entire paving project. Downhill cyclists, however, must follow a pilot car just like other traffic.
BLITZ TO THE BARREL RESULTS (top five only)
1, Katie Compton
2, Kelli Emmett
3, Alice Pennington
4, Serena Bishop Gordon
5, Brooke Blackwelder
1, Adam Craig
2, Barry Wicks
3, Ryan Trebon
4, Chris Sheppard
5, Josh Carlson